World War II Vehicles, Tanks and Airplanes, picture of P-51 Mustang
World War II Vehicles, Tanks and Airplanes, picture of T-34/85
World War II Vehicles, Tanks and Airplanes, picture of Fw-190
World War II Vehicles, Tanks and Airplanes, picture of Churchill
wwiivehicles.com ©2016
Search:
United States' flagUnited States' Army Air Corps aircraft marking

United States' Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter

Photos

Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter:
United States' Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter
Aeronautics Aircraft Spotters' Handbook
Lockheed P-38 Lightning Reconnaissance plane having film removed after mission:
United States' Lockheed P-38 Lightning Reconnaissance plane having film removed after mission
United States Army in World War II, Pictorial Record, The War Against Germany and Italy: Mediterranean and Adjacent Areas, 1951, pg 45
Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter:
United States' Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter
Aeronautics Aircraft Spotters' Handbook
Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter:
United States' Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter
Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter:
United States' Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter

Design

The P-38 Lightning was the first military aircraft designed by Lockheed.2 It was to meet a 1937 specification for a high altitude interceptor that could fly at 20,000' at 360 mph and at 1,500' at 290 mph.2,3,5 The ascent of the plane was to take only six minutes.5 Many of the aircraft companies of the time thought it was impossible to meet the specification.5

H. L. Hibbard and Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, Lockheed's head designers, chose a design with two engine that would have supercharges placed in the tails.5 Radiators and landing gear were to be located in the tails as well.5 The design was to have a 23 mm cannon and four machine guns placed in the nose in front of the pilot.5

Cockpit

Some pilots complained that in the early models the cockpit was very uncomfortable.1 At high altitudes some pilots even got frostbit.1

Nose

On many of the models the nose held a 20 mm cannon and four .50 cal machine guns providing a powerful punch.1

Engines

The Allison engines were sometimes prone to over heat.1

The engines had the radiators in the twin booms which gave excellent high-altitude performance.1

To eliminate some of the problems of torque in two engine aircraft, the engines were designed to rotate in opposite directions.1

Undercarriage

The tricycle undercarriage made the P-38 Lightning easier to land and made the engines easier to maintain.1

Prototype

A prototype of Lockheed's design was made on June 23, 1937.5

The P-38 Lightning prototype (XP-38) first flew on January 27, 1939.1,2,3,4,5 It had a 37 mm and four 12.7 mm guns in its nose.2 The power plant was the Allison V-1710-27/29 which got it to a top speed of 390 mph / 628 kph.2 The first flight had the flaps come loose and the XP-38 almost crashed.4 Two weeks later (February 11, 19395), after a trans America record flight, it landing short because of carburetor icing.4,5 With only two refueling stops the trip took seven hours and two minutes.5 The military was duly impressed and in April 1939 ordered thirteen more prototypes.5 Eventually two more orders brought the total up to 673.5

The prototypes had a buffering problem around the tail because of the airflow from the wings.1 This was corrected in the production models.1

Production

The first P-38 production model first flew in June 1941.4

Variants

  • Lockheed 322-61: Lockheed's designation.6
  • Lockheed XP-38: Prototype.3 Had Allison V-1710-C liquid cooled V 12 engines (1,150 HP).4
  • Lockheed XP-49: Experimental high altitude plane.1
  • Lockheed XP-58: Experimental bomber escort.1
  • Lockheed F-4: Photo reconnaissance.1,2,3
  • Lockheed F-5: Photo reconnaissance.1,2,3 Had no armament.1
  • Lockheed P-332 / Lockheed Lightning I: Had Allison V-1710-33 engines (1,090 HP) with no superchargers.4
  • Lockheed P-38D: First main production model.5 First version to equip squadrons.2,3
  • Lockheed P-38E: Had 37 mm gun replaced by 20 mm.2,3,5 Two seats.6
  • Lockheed P-38F: Could carry up to 2,000 lb / 907 kg of bombs under the wings.2,3
  • Lockheed P-38G: Minor changes in equipment.2,3 Engine had increased continuous rating.4
  • Lockheed P-38H: Could carry up to 3,200 lb / 1,452 kg of bombs under the wings.2,3
  • Lockheed P-38J: Radiators were moved to chin fairings behind the propellers.2,3 With a maximum external fuel load it had an endurance of 12 hours.2,3 Had Allison V-1710-89/91 engines.2
  • Lockheed P-38K: Used Allison V-1710-75/77 engines.4 Larger propellers.4
  • Lockheed P-38L: Had Allison V-1710-111/113 engines.2,3
  • Lockheed P-38M: Night fighter.1,5
  • Lockheed P-38N: Night fighter.4 Radar equipped.4 A revised canopy allowed for a radar operator to be seated behind the pilot.1 75 converted from P-38Ls.4

Usage

More than 100 United States Army squadrons were equipped with the P-38.1

Mediterranean Terror

The Luftwaffe pilots named the P-38 the der gabelschwanz Teufel, the "fork-tailed devil" or the "devil with the cleft tail."1,4,5

American Aces

Major Richard I. Bong, with 40 victories3, and Tommy McGuire, with 38 victories, were the top American aces that used the P-38.1,4,5

Yamamoto Shot Down

A long range mission to shoot down Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was conducted in the P-38.1,4,5

United Kingdom

In December 1941 the 143 P-38s that Britain had ordered started to arrive.3

Was initially called the Atlanta by the British.1,4

The British ordered 250 in May 1940.4 A contract for 417 for France was taken over by the British.4 The first shipment of 143 P-38s to England did not have the turbo charges which lead to the P-38 not being well received.1,2,4,5 These were sent back to the United States where they were used as trainers.2

First American P-38 Kill

A P-38F was the first to shoot down a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor over the Atlantic.4

Tops In the Pacific

The P-38 was used to shoot down more Japanese aircraft than any other type used in the Pacific.5

Specifications

  Lockheed P-38 Lightning
Type Fighter6
Crew  
Engine (Type) 2: Allison V-1710-C156
Cylinders  
Cooling  
HP 1,090 each6
Propeller blades  
Dimensions  
Span 52'6
Length 37' 10"6
Height 9' 10"6
Wing area  
Weight  
Empty  
Loaded 14,350 lb6
Performance  
Speed 400 mph6
Cruising speed  
Climb  
Service ceiling  
Range 1,070 miles6
Armament  
Nose 1: cannon6
4: MG6

Sources:

  1. Aircraft of WWII, General Editor: Jim Winchester, 2004
  2. Fighting Aircraft of World War II, Editor: Karen Leverington, 1995
  3. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, General Editor Chris Bishop, 1998
  4. Aircraft of WWII, Stewart Wilson, 1998
  5. World War II Airplanes Volume 2, Enzo Angelucci, Paolo Matricardi, 1976
  6. Aeronautics Aircraft Spotters' Handbook, Ensign L. C. Guthman, 1943
  7. American Attack Aircraft Since 1926, E. R. Johnson, 2012
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site